100 Years Since the Zimmerwald Conference – 1915-2015

One hundred years ago an International Socialist Conference of those opposed to the First World War gathered in Zimmerwald, near Bern Switzerland from 5 to 8 September 1915.  

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The brochure produced for the 100th Anniversary commemoration of the Zimmerwald Conference.

At a time when the international socialist movement had shattered with many supporting the war  the conference at Zimmerwald by those who emained faithfull to the principles of the socialist international offered a beacon of hope in a Europe gripped by war and reaction.  The International socialist conference began a movement around the Manifesto which it produced.

The Manifesto and the Zimmerwald movement are relevant to the war that takes places in Europe today – in Ukraine.   In 1914 Ukraine was divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary.  In the summer of 1914, the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian imperial powers plunged their countries into a war that engulfed Europe in one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.  The war in the Eastern Front saw over three million killed and more than nine million wounded in a conflict that has had a profound impact to this day.

Ukrainians, the largest oppressed nation in Europe, found themselves facing each other across the battlefield.  The Ukrainians of Galicia, Bukovyna and Transcarpathia fought on the side of the Central Powers, whilst three million were conscripted into the army of the Russian Empire, as well as Ukrainian immigrants to North America who fought also on the side of the Entente.

Ukrainians not only fought on both sides, but were persecuted by both sides.  As soon as the war broke out, the Russian Tsarist government arrested prominent leaders of the Ukrainian movement and closed down all Ukrainian newspapers.  Within a month, the Russians had occupied Galicia which the Tsar claimed they were ‘liberating’ – they begun to engage in an orgy of anti-Ukrainian excesses, complete with arrests, book burnings, the abolition of Ukrainian education and forcible conversions from Ukrainian (Greek) Catholicism to Russian Orthodoxy.    On the eve and in the aftermath of the Russian invasion, the Austro-Hungarian army summarily executed thousands of Ukrainians and sent thousands to concentration camps, on the pretext that they were pro-Russian.  Meanwhile, thousands of Galician Ukrainian immigrants in Canada were also placed in internment camps by the British Empire, on the pretext that they were pro-Austrian.

Ukrainians had nothing to gain by a victory of either of the alliances in this war and that was the message of the anti-war Ukrainian socialists of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers Party led by Lev Yurkevych.   They produced an internationalist paper Borotba (Struggle) that declared “Above all, we should not take sides, not besmirch our revolutionary cause in showing solidarity with the war aims of any of the governments involved.” Against those Russian and even some Ukrainian socialists who were supporting the Russian Empire in the war the USDRP declared:  “The struggle for Ukrainian liberation today is the same as the struggle against the war, for a revolutionary overthrow in Russia, for a victory of the goals set down by the 1905 Revolution…We place no hope in the generosity of Tsarist Russia, but only in its death”

The Ukrainian Social-Democrats wrote declaring they “express complete solidarity with the decisions of the Zimmerrwald international socialist conference and endorses the manifesto of that conference, which is already published in the number 4 of our journal, included here. “ Published below is that Manifesto and also the copy published in Ukrainian in 1915 and distributed illegally in the Russian Empire.

The principles of the Zimmerwald Manifesto are of relevance today at time when sections of the left especially neo-Stalinists have aligned themselves to the Russian imperialism of Putin, just as their predecessors did to the Tsar. And those who defend the annexation of Crimea and war in Donbas should take note that the Zimmerwald Manifesto declared that: There must be no enforced incorporation either of wholly or partly occupied countries. No annexations, either open or masked, no forced economic union, made still more intolerable by the suppression of political rights.”

Christopher Ford

 

THE ZIMMERWALD MANIFESTO

Workers of Europe!

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The Ukrainian edition of the Zimmerwald manifesto

The war has lasted for more than a year. Millions of corpses lie upon the battlefields; millions of men have been crippled for life. Europe has become a gigantic human slaughter-house. All science, the work of many generations, is devoted to destruction. The most savage barbarity is celebrating its triumph over everything that was previously the pride of mankind.

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Whatever may be the truth about the immediate responsibility for the outbreak of the war, one thing is certain: the war that has occasioned this chaos is the outcome of Imperialism, of the endeavours of the capitalist classes of every nation to satisfy their greed for profit by the exploitation of human labour and of the treasures of Nature.

Those nations which are economically backward or politically feeble are threatened with subjugation by the great Powers, which are attempting by blood and iron to change the map of the world in accordance with their exploiting interests. Whole peoples and countries, such as Belgium, Poland, the Balkan states, and Armenia, either as units or in sections, are menaced by annexation as booty in the bargaining for compensations.

As the war proceeds its real driving forces become apparent in all their baseness. Piece by piece the veil which has hidden the meaning of this world catastrophe from the understanding of the peoples is falling down. In every country the Capitalists who forge the gold of war profits from the blood of the people are declaring that the war is for national defence, democracy, and the liberation of oppressed nationalities. THEY LIE.

In reality they are actually burying on the fields of devastation the liberties of their own peoples, together with the independence of other nations. New fetters, new chains, new burdens are being brought into existence, and the workers of all countries, of the victorious as well as of the vanquished, will have to bear them. To raise civilization to a higher level was the aim announced at the beginning of the war: misery and privation, unemployment and want, underfeeding and disease are the actual results. For decades and decades to come the cost of the war will devour the strength of the peoples, imperil the work of social reform and hamper every step on the path of progress.

Intellectual and moral desolation, economic disaster, political reaction – such are the blessings of this horrible struggle between the nations.

Thus does the war unveil the naked form of modern Capitalism, which has become irreconcilable, not only with the interests of the working masses, not only With the circumstances of historic development, but even with the first conditions of human communal existence.

The ruling forces of Capitalist society, in whose hands were the destinies of the nations, the monarchical and the Republican Governments, secret diplomacy, the vast employers’ organizations, the middle-class parties, the Capitalist Press, the Church – all these forces must bear the full weight of responsibility for this war, which has been produced by the social order nourishing them and protecting them and which is being carried on for the sake of their interests.

Workers!

Exploited, deprived of your rights, despised – you were recognized as brothers and comrades at the outbreak of the war before you were summoned to march to the shambles, to death. And now, when militarism has crippled, lacerated, degraded, and destroyed you, the rulers are demanding from you the abandonment of your interests, of your aims, of your ideals – in a word, slavish submission to the “national truce.” You are prevented from expressing your views, your feelings, your pain; you are not allowed to put forth your demands and to fight for them. The press is muzzled, political rights and liberties are trampled upon – thus is military dictatorship ruling today with the iron hand.

We cannot, we dare not, any longer remain inactive in the presence of a state of things that is menacing the whole future of Europe and of mankind. For many decades the Socialist working class has carried on the struggle against militarism. With growing anxiety its representatives at their national and international conferences have devoted themselves to the war peril, the outcome of an Imperialism which was becoming more and more menacing. At Stuttgart, Copenhagen, and Basle the International Socialist Congresses indicated the path that the workers should follow. [44]

But we Socialist Parties and working-class organizations which had taken part in determining this path have since the outbreak of war disregarded the obligations that followed therefrom. Their representatives have invited the workers to suspend the working class struggle, the only possible and effective means of working class emancipation. They have voted the ruling classes the credits for carrying on the war. They have put themselves at the disposal of their Governments for the most varied services. They have tried through their press and their envoys to win over the neutrals to the Government policies of their respective countries. They have given to their Government Socialist Ministers as hostages for the observance of the national truce, and thus have taken on themselves the responsibility for this war, its aims, its methods. And just as Socialist Parties failed separately, so did the most responsible representative of the Socialists of all countries fail: the International Socialist Bureau. [45]

These facts constitute one of the reasons why the international working-class movement, even where sections of it did not fall a victim to the national panic of the first period of the war, or where it rose above it, has failed, even now, in the second year of the butchering of nations, to take up simultaneously in all countries an active struggle for peace.

In this intolerable situation we have met together, we representatives of Socialist Parties of Trade Unions, or of minorities of them, we Germans, French, Italians, Russians, Poles, Letts, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Swedes, Norwegians, Dutch and Swiss, we who are standing on the ground, not of national solidarity with the exploiting class, but of the international solidarity of the workers and the working-class struggle. We have met together in order to join anew the broken ties of international relations and to summon the working class to reorganize and begin the struggle for peace.

This struggle is also the struggle for liberty, for Brotherhood of nations, for Socialism. The task is to take up this fight for peace for a peace without annexations or war indemnities. Such a peace is only possible when every thought of violating the rights and liberties of the nations is condemned. There must be no enforced incorporation either of wholly or partly occupied countries. No annexations, either open or masked, no forced economic union, made still more intolerable by the suppression of political rights. The right of nations to select their own government must be the immovable fundamental principle of international relations.

Organized Workers!

Since the outbreak of the war you have put your energies, your courage, your steadfastness at the service of the ruling classes. Now the task is to enter the lists for your own cause, for the sacred aims of Socialism, for the salvation of the oppressed nations and the enslaved classes, by means of the irreconcilable working-class struggle.

It is the task and the duty of the Socialists of the belligerent countries to begin this struggle with all their power. It is the task and duty of the Socialists of the neutral countries to support their brothers by all effective means in this fight against bloody barbarity.

Never in the history of the world has there been a more urgent, a more noble, a more sublime task, the fulfilment of which must be our common work. No sacrifice is too great, no burden too heavy, to attain this end: the establishment of peace between the nations.

Working men and women! Mothers and fathers! Widows and orphans! Wounded and crippled! To all who are suffering from the war or in consequence of the war, we cry out over the frontiers, over the smoking battlefields, over the devastated cities and hamlets:

“Workers of all countries unite”

In the name of the International Socialist Conference:

For the German Delegation: George Ledebour, Adolph Hoffman

For the French Delegation: A. Merrheim, Bourderon

For the Italian Delegation: G. E. Modigijani, Consanino Lazzari

For the Russian Delegation: N. Lenin, Paul Axeirod, M. Bobrov

For the Polish Delegation: St. Lapinski, A. Warski, Cz. (Jacob) Hanecki

For the Inter-Balkan Socialist Federation:

(For the Rumanian Delegation) G. Rakovsky

(For the Bulgarian Delegation) Vasil Kolaro.

For the Swedish and Norwegian Delegation: Z. Hoglund, Ture Nerman.

For the Dutch Delegation: H. Roland-Holst.

For the Swiss Delegation: Robert Grimm.

September 1915.

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